Happy Bites - A Blog by the Founder of Eat Happy
Have you ever felt out of control with your eating? Like you just couldn’t stop even though you wanted to and knew you should?
If so, you probably felt a certain amount of guilt, or even shame, about how much you eventually did eat. That guilt made you feel bad about your own ability for self-control, and that, coupled with a food-hangover, made you feel pretty terrible in general. Physically and emotionally. You wouldn’t be alone if this turned into a destructive cycle that brought you back again and again for that very same food, followed by guilt and depression. Perhaps this even happened with seemingly healthy or “diet” foods. Even worse!
A fascinating article came out recently in the New York Times Magazine called The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food that explains why it’s so hard to put down the snack bag – and it’s NOT your lack of willpower. I just want to say that again, and in obnoxious all-caps: IT’S NOT YOUR LACK OF WILLPOWER.
It’s been known for quite a while that sugar and fat are addictive – this article in Scientific American describes how rats, given access to high-fat foods, “showed some of the same characteristics as animals hooked on cocaine or heroin–and found it hard to quit even when given electric shocks”. In non-technical terms, when you eat high-fat and high-sugar foods, your brain releases chemicals (neurotransmitters) that make you happy. This makes you more likely to eat that food again. After a few times you become desensitized to that food “high” and need more to get the same level of satisfaction. Therefore you eat more and more. It works just like drugs, with the lovely side effects of becoming fat, nutrient deficient, and probably depressed.
Food manufacturers, however, don’t just leverage high levels of fat and sugar to hook you on their food, although that’s part of it. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent by giants like General Mills, Kraft, and Nabisco, to create food products (I can’t call it food) that encourage you, the consumer, to eat as much as possible. They have actually discovered ways to bypass the body’s natural regulation systems that would normally tell you to stop.
Here’s an example, as described by food scientist Steven Witherly:
“‘[Cheetos are] one of the most marvelously constructed foods on the planet, in terms of pure pleasure.’ He ticked off a dozen attributes of the Cheetos that make the brain say more. But the one he focused on most was the puff’s uncanny ability to melt in the mouth. ‘It’s called vanishing caloric density,’ Witherly said. ‘If something melts down quickly, your brain thinks that there’s no calories in it . . . you can just keep eating it forever.’”
In this way food companies are maximixing pleasure while minimizing satiety. It’s the perfect storm for you, and the perfect money-maker for them. Which, let’s be honest, is the primary goal of a large food product company – to make lots of money, keep share-holders happy, and continue to grow.
The important thing to realize in all of this is that 1) these food products are not real food and 1) your body does have a beautiful regulation system that will work, if you eat foods that are real. Have you ever over-eaten bananas? Or oatmeal? Probably not. Because when you eat these foods your body will naturally tell you when it’s time to stop. You will feel pleasantly full and satisfied.
If you have a food addiction, realize that it is an addiction that will have to be broken. And the cure isn’t so unpleasant, as it’s to focus your diet on real foods that are naturally satisfying. It takes a little time, and can benefit from a few tricks during the process, but it’s well worth the effort. You’ll feel freedom you haven’t felt in years.
If you’d like support in breaking a food addiction and discovering real food, please contact me at email@example.com.
We eat a lot of mushrooms these days. They add a meaty umami flavor to vegetarian dishes and everyone in my family finds them delicious, including my toddler. Not surprisingly they’re also nutritious - this post from well-known Dr. Fuhrman discusses how mushrooms have cancer prevention properties.
Try this delicious one-dish vegetarian casserole as an easy way to get lots of veggies, whole grains and mushrooms into your diet:
Broccoli, Mushroom and Farro Casserole with Cheddar
From No Plan Meal Plan 12/10/12
Total Prep Time: 45 minutes
Active Time: 25 minutes
1 small onion or 2 shallots, minced
1 head broccoli, broken into small florets, or 1 lb frozen
1 lb mushrooms, roughly chopped or sliced
1 cup farro, rinsed (can sub another grain, such as rice or quinoa)
For full recipe, click here
A few things have contributed to my writing a post about fiber supplements. First, I had a baby 6 weeks ago. If you’ve ever popped out a baby, you know why this is relevant, and if you haven’t, you can probably figure it out. Second, I read an interesting article on how prevalent chronic constipation is in young kids and how it can be a big problem for years if not addressed. Kids who get freaked out by pooping or have a bad experience can tend to hold it in as long as possible and actually stretch out their little colons. This can lead to their inability to tell when they have to poop. Poor little guys. Third, I have a potty-training toddler who happened to start freaking out when she needs to poop. Having just read this article, I wanted to ensure that she’d avoid the above-described uncomfortable and potentially dangerous fate.
So, the best all-natural fiber supplement is, in my opinion, psyllium seed husk. I came across psyllium seed husk when doing research for a client. What’s interesting about it is that it’s equally effective for constipation as well as diarhea, making it ideal for people with irritable bowel syndrome. It bulks the stool (therefore binding it) and softens it. All in all it’s a great digestive regulator. It’s all-natural, cheap and effective. And it’s totally tasteless. When I was diagnosed with IBS by a doctor many years ago I was told to take a metamucil fiber wafer each day. It didn’t help, tasted disgusting, and had a lot of sugar in it. This is much more pleasant and effective.
When I recently had my baby I found that two tablespoons a day dissolved in water was the right amount for me. I also discovered that if you stir it into apple juice (those little apple juices at the hospital were the perfect size!) and let it sit for a few minutes, it thickens and takes almost exactly like apple sauce.
This is how I discovered an awesome trick for toddlers and any kid who needs digestive regulating. My freaked out toddler was holding in her poop, poor kid, and because I didn’t want to kick-off any chronic constipation issues I began offering her a little “apple sauce” as a treat. She loves it. I simply take a tablespoon of psyllium seed husk and mix in enough apple cider to form an apple-sauce like consistency.
It is important to let the mixture sit long enough for it to fully bulk up – at least 5 minutes. You don’t want to swallow it while the fiber is still expanding – there’s even a warning on the packae that it can get stuck in your throat if you do – so be patient and add more liquid if necessary.
I would recommend psyllium seed husk as a supplement to anyone who could use a little help in the digestive department. Of course, if you’re experiencing chronic digestive issues it’s best to understand the underlying issue and address it. But for temporary issues that we all experience, this product can’t be beat.
“We have completely changed our association with the microbial world. There is a price to pay for our good intentions.” ~ Scientific American, June 2012
There is a fascinating article in June 2012′s Scientific American titled: “The Ultimate Social Network: Your Inner Ecosystem” that discusses how our intestinal microbial flora is changing with modern life, and the consequences of those changes. If you think you’re alone in your body, you’re quite mistaken: bacteria cells actually outnumber human cells by a factor of 10:1. And while the thought of those little buggers might gross you out, many of them actually have beneficial impacts on how our bodies function. Here are some highlights from the article:
- Newborns, which are sterile in the womb, pick up beneficial microbes in the birth canal and then from breastfeeding, touching other humans, surfaces, pets, etc. It doesn’t take long- late infancy, for their microbial environment to develop trillions of cells
- Many bacteria complete functions that our own cells can not, such as produce specialized substances that are beneficial to the body or provide a regulation system for various functions. For example, certain bacteria in the gut synthesize enzymes that create B12 – a critical vitamin that is difficult to find in nature
- Bacteria in the gut also help to digest food for us by breaking down long and complex molecules into digestible pieces
- H Pylori, which is most commonly villainized as the cause of stomach ulcers, actually has a beneficial regulatory effect on appetite. In years past as many as 80-90% of us has H Pylori in our stomachs, where post-meals it would decrease ghrelin, which stimulates appetite. One study found that individuals treated with antibiotics to remove H Pylori gained more weight than those who weren’t treated.
- Another microbe, B. fragilis, may help to prevent autoimmune disorders, however it, too is disappearing from our bodies. One researcher cited in the article states that the 7-8x increase in autoimmune disorders may be attributable to the lack of this and possibly other microbes.
The article is chock full of more interesting research and information. Unfortunately there’s no direct link to the article, however, you can listen here to an interview with the author. One thing we know for sure is that exposure to nature (i.e. playing in dirt!) helps build a healthy microbial system, and eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut and yogurt can also help.
I stopped eating a lot of bread when I started studying nutrition and realized how it makes me feel. It’s an occasional treat, and sometimes necessity, but it’s certainly not something I typically go out of my way to make. But with this hot, hot summer starting up, I’m not much feeling like my steaming bowl of oatmeal in the morning. I want something easy and more importantly, cool.
This desire led me to this awesome recipe, which I adapted slightly from Peter Reinhart’s awesome Whole Grain Breads book. This is 100% Sprouted Spelt Bread. Sprouted bread is incredibly nutritionally for a few reasons. First, sprouting the grains makes many vitamins and nutrients more bio-accessible – vitamins A, B-complex, C, and multiple minerals. In addition, it makes both the carbohydrates more digestible and partially breaks down the gluten, making that more digestible as well. With a mild gluten intolerance, I can eat it and feel just great.
The resulting bread is dense, chewy, incredibly flavorful thanks to the sprouting step, and probably only takes about 30 minutes of actual hands-on time. Now, that 30 minutes is spread out over about 1 1/2-2 days, but the steps are very easy and quickly become second-nature.
Here’s what you need:
2 1/2 cups raw spelt berries (you can sub wheat berries)
1-2 tablespoons raw honey
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 cup water
1 bread loaf pan
a big bowl
non-stick spray or a little oil to grease the pan
Here’s what you do, along with total elapsed time with each step (this is not the hands-on time, which is much less):
1) 8-24 hours: Rinse the spelt berries in cool or cold water. Then cover them with several inches of water and let them soak at room temperature for 8-24 hours.
2) 12-16 hours: Drain and rinse the berries, then place them back in the bowl and cover. You want the berries to be damp but not sitting in water, as these are the required conditions for sprouting. Don’t let the berries dry out completely – rinse them and add them back into the bowl as needed. Many recommend rinsing them every 4 hours, but I’ve successfully sprouted the berries by rinsing them around dinnertime, again before bed, and then they’ve been done in the morning. You’ll know they’ve sprouted when you see a small white tail emerging from one end of the seed. The berries will also have a pleasant sour-dough like smell to them.
3) 5 minutes: Once the berries have sprouted, rinse them, then you can use them right away or store them in the fridge for up to 3 days. When you’re ready to make the bread you need to process them into a dough. Place the berries in a food processor (I have also ground them in my omega juicer) and process into a fine pulp. After a minute or two add the water, honey, yeast, and salt. Process as long as you can without heating up the mixture. At some point the dough will form a ball and just whirl around the food processor – you’re done at this point.
4) 2 minutes: Take the dough out of processor and knead it with wet hands, on a slightly wet surface (just sprinkle with water), until the dough feels elastic and dough-like. It’s going to be very sticky, and that’s ok.
5) 60 minutes: Place it in a large oiled bowl and cover with a kitchen towel and let it rest on the counter on in an unheated oven for about an hour. It will expand by about 1 1/2 times.
6) 60 minutes: Grease your loaf pan and transfer the dough to the pan. Spray the top of the bread with a little non-stick spray, or brush it with oil or butter. Cover it again and let it rise for another 45-60 minutes.
7) 60 minutes: Heat your oven to 425 degrees, then pop in the bread. Immediately reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Bake the bread for 45 minutes, until it’s cooked through (200 degrees F). Remove the bread from the pan (it should come out easily, otherwise continue to bake for 5 minutes), and place on a cooling rack. Once cool, eat it or store in an airtight container or plastic bag.
As you can see, all you really need is about a day and a half of time to soak/sprout the berries, then a 3-hour timeframe when you can pop into the kitchen a few times, for 3-5 minutes at a time. It seems like a lot of steps at first, but once you go through it you’ll see how easy it is. The resulting loaf, admitedly, isn’t much to look at. I thought I did something wrong the first time I baked it, because it was so dense and almost seemed to shrink a little in the oven. But then I tasted it, and honestly, it takes better than any other whole grain bread I know of, and it’s incredibly moist. The sprouting process seems to give the grains an almost sour-dough like flavor. It’s delicious warm with a little butter. And you can’t beat the nutritional cred with a stick. Give it a try and Eat Happy!
Side note: if you want a fluffier loaf, you can add 1/2 cup vital wheat gluten to the mixing step. I have never done this as I don’t want the extra gluten. But the original recipe states that this additional will make the loaf rise higher and be significantly lighter and fluffier.
Another great whole-grain waffle recipe, and they’re easy to make gluten-free. I am completely obsessed with rhubarb and this recipe is a great excuse to eat a lot of the tasty Strawberry-Rhubarb compote. Filling and great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Whole-Grain Waffles with Greek Yogurt and Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote
(Adapted from Power Waffles with Yogurt, Bananas and Almonds)
1½ cups buckwheat flour (or sub other whole grain flour)
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup all-purpose flour (can sub GF flour or whole wheat pastry flour)
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tablespoons honey
2 ½ cups whole milk (can sub non-dairy milk)
1 tsp dry yeast (regular or quick-rise is fine)
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
4 eggs, eggs and yolks separated
¼ cup melted and cooled butter or sub high-heat vegetable oil (canola or grapeseed)
2 cups plain Greek yogurt (I prefer whole-fat)
1 recipe Strawberry Rhubarb compote, recipe below
- The night before making waffles, whisk together the flours, oats and cinnamon in a large bowl. Heat the milk to luke-warm (105-110 degrees) – it should not be hot – and stir in the honey until it dissolves. Add the yeast and let it sit for about 5 minutes – the yeast should “bloom” by becoming puffy. After 5 minutes mix the milk mixture into the flours and let them sit overnight in the fridge.
- Day-of: Pre-heat the waffle maker and start preparing the Strawberry-Rhubarb compote if you haven’t already.
- Make the waffles: Stir together melted butter, egg yolks, and baking powder. Stir the egg yolk mixture into the rest of the batter. Then beat the egg whites until they’re bright white, light and fluffy (3-5 minutes). Ripples should form on the top surface of the egg whites as you beat them. Use a spatula to gently fold the egg whites into the waffle batter. This will lighten the batter and make light and fluffy waffles. Cook the waffles in your waffle maker per instructions (mine used 1 cup of batter per waffle).
- Serve the waffles topped with the compote and plain yogurt.
1 bunch rhubarb, sliced thin (about 3-4 cups)
1 quart strawberries, stems removed and quartered (can sub frozen)
½ cup sugar or sub 1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup water
Combine all ingredients in a small-medium saucepan. Cover with a lid and place over medium heat until the mixture comes to a simmer and the fruit and rhubarb has let off enough water to be mostly liquid (about 5-7 minutes). Then let the mixture simmer uncovered for another 10-15 minutes (taste it and see if you like the consistency – it will continue to reduce the longer you cook it. It will also thicken slightly as it cools). Adjust sweetness to taste – exact amount of sweetener needed will depend on the amount of natural sugars in the strawberries.
Questionable Safety, Consumers in the Dark
The first genetically modified animal food product could hit shelves this year in the form of GMO salmon. Scientists from AquaBounty Technologies of Waltham, Massachusetts have created a salmon species that grows twice as fast as normal salmon and can therefore go from birth to market in twice the time. The scientists achieved this result by “adding a growth hormone gene from one fish plus an antifreeze gene from another”. The FDA has already ruled this fish safe for consumption, although several experts on the panel have voiced concerns about poor or missing data from the analysis and risk assessment.
Safety issues aside, the current issue being debated is whether the GMO salmon should be labeled on supermarket shelves. The industry representing these GMO fish is heavily pushing the FDA to leave the salmon un-labeled, citing a concern about “irrelevant” health concerns that consumers may have and thus prevent the sale of their product. Currently GMO grains and vegetables are not required to be labeled as such, and the concern is that this status-quo will apply to salmon as well.
Personally I find it unbelievable that GMO salmon could hit the market unlabeled, but I fear nonetheless that this will be the case. I still have safety concerns – nutrition and medical “experts” have made some pretty bad mistakes in the past – they used to think trans fats were healthful, for example, and yet still get confused about the simple chicken egg. How can they be certain about the unknown unknowns of eating GMO animals?
Again, safety issues aside, help ensure that consumers – yourself included – at least have the right to choose for themselves. Sign this petition to ensure that GMO foods are labeled.
Being sick is the pits, but it’s helpful to know that there are real steps you can take to improve your immunity and lessen the odds that you end up with that cold or flu bug flying around the office. Here are 6 simple, effective ways to ensure your immune system is in good shape. Keep in mind that most of these are long-term strategies, not 2 or 3 day cures. By the time you’ve gotten the cold there are a few things you can do to weather it better, but it’s best to avoid it all together.
- Take notice of your digestion Your gut and your immune system are so intimately linked that some experts state that “80% of your immune system” is actually in your intestines. Healthy intestinal “flora” (read: good bacteria) not only help you digest your food an assimilate nutrients, but they help create an environment that allows your immune system to protect you from potentially dangerous viruses and bacteria. If your digestion isn’t good take steps to fix it (read below).
- Eat fermented foods, or take probiotics No, I’m not talking about beer. Traditional fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and miso contain beneficial bacteria called probiotics that are excellent for your digestion. The fermented vegetables, such as cabbage, have the additional benefit of excellent levels of vitamin C and some other nutrients which are also helpful for preventing and fighting bugs. Amaze yourself by making your own sauerkraut. It has to be the real deal: frequently the stuff they sell in the store is actually pickled, not fermented, so you’ll have to ask or check labels. If that’s too much work for you (it’s not that bad, I swear!) try taking probiotics. A recent study found that probiotic supplements was effective in reducing the number of colds.
- Take active steps to manage stress Too much negative stress (remember learning about eustress and distress in health class?) has very real consequences on your health – it’s well documented that depression can weaken the immune system. Most of us live lives that contain daily stressors, so it’s important to counteract those stressors with things that de-stress. Get a massage, take the time to read a good book, spend time enjoying your friends and family. Make sure your support system is healthy and if it’s not, figure out how to get it there. Life is short: find a way to live it that is enjoyable for you on a daily basis.
- Eat seasonally It’s amazing how nature provides us what we need, when we need it. Citrus is a winter fruit – it’s in season now - eat it up! Loading up on winter fruits and vegetables will load you with vitamins, minerals, carotenoids and other micro-nutrients that will keep you healthy. Think winter squashes, cold-weather dark greens, citrus, and traditionally preserved goodies (like sauerkraut).
- Take garlic If you know me well, you know my love for garlic. Garlic is both a broad-spectrum anti-biotic and has powerful anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. I take a clove or two of smashed garlic a day when exposed to a cold. Crush it with a blunt surface, remove the skin, and swallow it like a pill (a mouthful of rice or another soft food helps it go down). I swear by it and so do other health experts.
- Get your vitamin D – one way or another Vitamin D is critical immune system function, and unless you’re getting significant exposure year-round to direct sunlight, you’re probably deficient in it (estimates are 80-90% of people north of Atlanta are deficient). A growing body of research links lack of vitamin D to an increasing list of health problems, from depression to cancer. You can get some vit D in some foods (dairy is supplemented, fatty fish such as sardines and salmon have some) but it’s hardly ever enough. Take a D3 supplement, at least 1,000mg daily, to be sure.
All of this, of course, should be complimentary to a generally healthy diet and lifestyle. Eating a rainbow of colors each day, getting regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight are foundational.
I’ve gotten a few questions lately about healthy cookware, which is a great question to ask. Non-stick cookware was introduced as a healthy alternative to regular, the justification being that less oil would need to be used to cook meats and vegetables. However, we now know it’s not that simple, as the chemicals used to make a pan non-stick have health consequences of their own.
Let’s start with Teflon, the most common non-stick coating. It has an interesting history, for sure! Technically Teflon is a chemical called polytetraflouroethylene, or PTFE, and it was invented all the way back in 1938. It had some industrial uses before it started to appear in commercial cookware in the early 50s. Dupont, the company that patented the technology, “avoided the market for consumer cookware due to potential problems associated with release of toxic gases if stovetop pans were overheated in inadequately ventilated spaces” (Wikipedia). PTFE is still used today in non-stick cookware, and the concerns about high-heat cooking are still valid. Basically, heat the pan much hotter than 300 degrees and toxic fumes can be release – this is regardless of whether the pan is scratched, although scratches will make the integrity of the product even worse.
PTFE is not the only non-stick coating; PFOA is also widely used. Unfortunately PFOA is no better than PTFE health-wise, possibly it’s worse. This is a good article about the dangers of PFOA, which include cancer, low birth weight, birth defects, suppressed immune system and possibly raised cholesterol levels. Again, the chemical is transmitted through high-heat cooking that causes toxic fumes to rise off of the cooking surface. The fumes can also kill birds, which are known to be sensitive to such chemicals. And the pans don’t have to get that hot: somewhere in the high 300′s/low 400s - around the smoke point of many vegetable oils. Pans that are left on the stove for only a few minutes can reach temperatures as high as 700 degrees, and it only takes a fraction of a second to release those fumes.
There are some new technogies for non-stick pans, such as the Scan Pan. These use a ceramic-titanium technology that contains no PFOA but still contains some PTFE. Because of their patented manufacturing process the cookware is supposed to be safe under 500 degrees, although they still recommend leaving birds out of the kitchen when cooking!
Another new technology is Thermolon, or “Greenpan”, which does not use PFOA or PFTE. However, there are still some concerns about whether their nano-technology and silicon materials used are safe. It’s a relatively new product that appears to need more testing to really know for sure.
Here’s the bottom line, as far as I’m concerned:
- Buy stainless steel cookware and use it for your normal cooking. Extra virgin olive oil is good for you, so use some of it for regular sauteeing (although be sure not to heat it above it’s smoke point, at which point the oil’s chemical properties change and it becomes a health hazard).
- Limit your non-stick cookware to applications where you really need it, say pancakes, crepes, and eggs. Cook on medium-low temperatures.
- Never use non-stick cookware for high-heat cooking. If you want do any type of browning or searing do it on your stainless and just wait until the product is fully cooked before trying to flip it – this should ensure its release. (Make sure you’re using a high-heat oil such as canola for this application – don’t let any oil smoke).
- Don’t use any non-stick cookware with a surface that’s compromised with scratches. This just makes chemical emissions more likely.
- Also avoid aluminum cooking surfaces. The connection between Alzheimer’s Disease and aluminum is still uncertain, so better safe than sorry.
- Other good cooking surfaces are cast iron, glass and ceramic, which are stable and chemical emission-free.
I hope that helps! I think it’s worth investing in a good-quality stainless cookware set, which will last you a lifetime. Eat Happy!
Crepes are a near-perfect food: simple, versatile, and easy to adapt to different dietary restrictions/preferences. I make mine with a variety of whole grain flours (usually buckwheat and brown rice), and then fill them with a variety of vegetable fillings. But honestly they’re just as good with simple PB&J. One of my favorite things about making crepes is that they store so well in the fridge for about 3 days, so I make them on the weekends and can enjoy the perfect quick breakfast or snack through the first half of the week.
For the crepe and fillings recipes, click here.